Arrow: 316-317 “The Offer / “Suicidal Tendencies” Review
Reviewed by Louis Rabinowitz.
Previously on Arrow, Oliver came face to face once again with the man who skewered him and kicked him off a mountain just a few months before; Ra’s al Ghul. However, despite Diggle and Oliver mowing down a few dozen League of Assassins henchmen on their way in, Ra’s was in a charitable mood and instead gave Oliver a surprising offer; to take his place as the new Ra’s al Ghul.
The three following episodes saw things with the League begin to get a little bit less friendly – starting with episode 16 and 17:
Episode 316 – The Offer
After the load of revelations and cliffhangers in Nanda Parbat, The Offer was a quieter instalment that saw Oliver contemplating his new job offer – and across the episode, we saw plenty of characters give their case for or against. While we got a concrete answer at episode’s end, The Offer did a great job of presenting both options as equally reasonable/crazy – the easy route would have been to portray Oliver accepting the offer as the clear ‘evil’ option that would see him give up his principles and essentially turn to the dark side.
However, the perks of this offer were instead played up to match Diggle and Felicity’s objections – rendering Oliver’s choice a genuinely difficult one where viewer responses may vary. It’s made very clear indeed that Oliver isn’t in the best of places, with Felicity in a happy relationship with Ray and Lance punishing Oliver for his (fairly idiotic) lack of sharing about Sara’s death, so despite the whole ‘army of murderers’ caveat, Oliver’s temptation feels both justified and compelling. And when the final answer comes, while obviously a tad predictable, it feels like a genuinely important milestone in the development of Oliver’s character rather than a disposable realisation to be forgotten about the next episode.
Outside the navel-gazing, the villain of the week was Michael Amar aka Murmur, a criminal with his mouth sewn shut. Amar’s only real purpose in The Offer is to spark Oliver’s realisation that leads him to refuse the offer – aside from that, Murmur is essentially useless; a generic criminal whose central gimmick actually inhibits the character from being interesting. Arrow’s standalone villains are rarely a success, but Murmur’s lacklustre portrayal was particularly egregious.
The Offer’s final moments saw season three begin to enter its endgame as Ra’s al Ghul rudely interrupts a game of villainous pool, killing a few people in cold blood… while dressed as the Arrow. It’s an ending that doesn’t pack a huge shock, but nonetheless rightfully re-calibrates Ra’s into a more villainous role – at this point in seasons one and two; the Big Bads had plans that firmly opposed Oliver’s. So, it was about time that Ra’s began to shift into the role of Big Bad after appearing to be fairly benevolent in the past couple of episodes, and allow season 3 to begin focusing on setting up the inevitable showdown between Oliver and Ra’s.
The Offer was a quiet but entertaining episode with some excellent character moments, but marred slightly by a pitiful villain and a slight lack of urgency.
Episode 317 – Suicidal Tendencies
After the low-key, character-focused The Offer, the following episode flipped the switch the other way for an episode packed to the gills with action and advancements in the season arc – almost to saturation level. Suicidal Tendencies split its time between the Suicide Squad’s latest mission and Oliver being framed for murders by a group of League of Assassins Arrow lookalikes – and while both plots delivered plenty of thrills and drama, the episode wasn’t structured quite well enough to support two major plotlines. Both plots had enough set-pieces and character moments to justify being the main focus of the episode, so stuffing the two into one episode left Suicidal Tendencies feeling a tad bloated and unfocused, with no real divide between the main plot and the subplots.
However, the separate parts of the episode do provide a lot to enjoy, though not without a few flaws. The cliffhanger last episode promised that the League of Assassins plot was about to heat up – and heat up it did. While the team of copycat Arrows disappeared mid-way through to make way for the Arrow vs. ATOM showdown, Suicidal Tendencies managed to deliver a neat, visually innovative action sequence as Oliver battled the copycat Arrows, whilst establishing that the League’s goals are very different indeed to the previous major foes Oliver has faced. While the League clearly wasn’t the focus this episode, Suicidal Tendencies kept the momentum built up at the end of The Offer going, allowing the threat of Ra’s al Ghul to remain hanging over the episode despite the Demon’s Head staying off-stage here.
The copycat Arrows and their murders eventually segued into a showdown that’s been a long time coming – between the Arrow and the ATOM. The fight between the two was brief, but still displayed some strong effects for TV; while the complaints that the ATOM is essentially a knock-off Iron Man do have some validity, it’s impressive enough that Arrow can pull off an Iron Man-esque character and the special effects that entails without feeling like an embarrassing imitator of Tony Stark. Brandon Routh has been an unsung hero of Arrow’s third season in this reviewer’s opinion, and his character arc here as Ray finally made peace with the Arrow and learned to trust Felicity was a well-acted, compact arc that went a long way to making Ray a more likeable character.
Meanwhile, over in the lovely Republic of Kasnia (a great tourist destination), the Suicide Squad were involved in a hostage crisis… of sorts. The twist that the crisis was engineered by the US senator to help his presidential campaign was revealed slightly too early in the episode, but the Suicide Squad plot still delivered some strong action scenes, and a welcome amount of focus on Deadshot, who received the flashback treatment this week.
We’ve only seen Floyd Lawton as a cold-blooded, snarky assassin – but the flashbacks in Suicidal Tendencies managed to both flesh out Lawton’s character and provide an intriguing tease for the future. Deadshot’s flashbacks were interesting enough, and the character’s PTSD after returning from war was a meaty and thought-provoking topic of the type Arrow rarely covers, but the flashbacks were a little too much for an already overstuffed episode. Delivering a full back-story for Lawton here was perhaps an example of the writers biting off more than they could chew, and his breakdown with his family therefore doesn’t have the emotional impact it could have had due to the sheer amount of things happening around it. In a less packed episode, these flashbacks could have been excellent, but frustratingly they didn’t quite have enough room to breathe here.
Nonetheless, Deadshot’s sacrifice at the end feels like a major loss to the series – as teased in the final flashback, Deadshot’s connection to the mysterious organisation called HIVE gave the character reams of untapped potential. And considering that HIVE is slated to play a major part in season four, it’s a real shame that Lawton bit the (ahem) bullet here. It’s likely a side effect of the upcoming Suicide Squad movie and the relatively well-known actor playing Deadshot in it (Will something?) so it’s hard to blame the Arrow writers – and to their credit, Deadshot’s sacrifice is a well-executed moment that packs the emotional punch the flashbacks slightly lacked.
Suicidal Tendencies concludes with another major cliffhanger, as the Mayor’s office comes under attack from Maseo. The Mayor takes an arrow, and then Felicity decides to stand by a window as Maseo prepares another arrow…
Both halves of Suicidal Tendencies, despite their flaws, were excellent. However, as a whole, the episode was a little too overstuffed, lacking a focus and giving certain elements such as Deadshot’s flashbacks short shrift.
Two solid episodes then – but the episode that followed might have blown both of them out of the water…